FAST ACT: Congress mandates study of self-reporting safety system

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line associate editor | Monday, December 28, 2015

A new system for drivers and carriers to self-report equipment failures on commercial vehicles is one of several studies mandated under the new highway bill.

Section 5303 of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, directs the Comptroller General of the United States to submit within one year a report on the cost and feasibility of establishing a self-reporting system for enroute equipment failures. The report is supposed to include an analysis of alternatives for the reporting of equipment failures in real time – via either website or telephone hotline. The report is to be delivered to both the House and Senate transportation committees.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said the language in the bill is part of a growing awareness that defects on vehicles most commonly occur while that vehicle is in operation.

“Quite frequently, when the mechanical issue occurs, it’s when the truck and driver are not in a place where an immediate fix can be provided,” he said. “If providing a remedy to the problem requires the vehicle to be driven somewhere, the driver should not be penalized for acting prudently to take the vehicle off the road and get it to a place where appropriate repairs can be made.”

The study will examine any potential regulatory or statutory impediments to a self-reporting system and also offer a recommendation on implementing such a system.

The language in the highway bill also directs the Comptroller General to analyze the ability of a commercial motor vehicle driver or a motor carrier to provide to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proof of repair of a self-reported equipment failure; the ability of the FMCSA to ensure that self-reported equipment failures proven to be repaired are not used in the calculation of Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category scores; and the ability of roadside inspectors to access self-reported equipment failures.

The study will also examine the cost to establish and administer the system as well as the ability for a proposed system to track individual commercial motor vehicles through unique identifiers, and whether a self-reporting system would yield demonstrable safety benefits.

Spencer said that any proposals resulting from the study may need “some tweaking” but “the reality is, whether it be lights or springs or things like that, those things will happen going down the road.”

“It serves no worthwhile purpose, simply because a defect is noted by an inspector. Doesn’t prove the driver was operating in an unsafe manner. Drivers shouldn’t be penalized.”

For the first time in more than a decade, highway funding and policy are settled for the next five years with the president’s signature putting into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act Dec. 4, 2015.

The House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 359-65 on Dec. 3, with one day until the current funding extension expired. The Senate defied earlier reports that it would not take up the measure until the following week and passed the bill by a vote of 83-16 that same evening.

Hailed as a bill with many pieces of trucker-driven language included, the bill is filled with a number of regulatory and highway funding provisions.

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